In her latest online article, leading consultant paediatric specialist Dr Margarita Burmester offers a comprehensive guide to ear wax management for parents and caregivers. She explains the different types available, and which is best for your child.
Dealing with Ear Wax Buildup: Tips for Parents and Caregivers
Managing ear wax accumulation in children can pose a challenge for parents and caregivers, potentially leading to discomfort, impaired hearing, and even infections. However, it's important to note that sometimes ear wax in children naturally dislodges without any intervention. In this article, we will explore effective methods to manage ear wax, including the use of drops and sprays, providing essential information for parents and caregivers.
Understanding the Importance of Ear Wax Management
Ear drops serve as a common solution for softening and removing ear wax. Various types of ear drops are available, such as olive oil and sodium bicarbonate drops. Nonetheless, it's crucial to adhere to the guidance provided by healthcare professionals and to administer drops only when recommended.
It's equally vital to understand when not to employ drops. If there's suspicion of a perforated eardrum in your child, refraining from using drops or sprays is imperative. Similarly, sodium bicarbonate drops should be avoided if your child has grommets.
Choosing the Right Drops
When selecting the appropriate ear drops, olive oil proves to be a valuable option for long-term use and recurrent wax concerns. Olive oil effectively softens the wax without dissolving it. In contrast, sodium bicarbonate drops actively dissolve wax, offering a faster and more efficient method of wax removal. These drops are readily available at pharmacies and should only be used for a duration of 7-10 days.
Proper Application of Drops
Administering drops in your child's ears involves warming them to body temperature and positioning the child on their side with the treated ear facing upward. For sodium bicarbonate drops, follow the prescribed dosage and place the drops in the ear. In the case of olive oil, a few drops can be introduced into the ear canal. Encouraging your child to remain on their side for around 5 minutes allows the drops to penetrate effectively.
It's important to note that a decrease in hearing or peculiar sounds like popping might be reported by your child during this process. These sensations arise as the drops take effect. To prevent the drops from escaping, placing a temporary cotton wool barrier within the ear can be beneficial. If both ears require treatment, a 30-minute interval between treatments is recommended.
Guidelines for Drop Usage
The frequency of drop administration depends on the chosen type. For olive oil, daily usage is recommended to gradually soften the wax. Following this, a weekly application suffices until the child's subsequent review appointment. Conversely, sodium bicarbonate drops should be used for 7-10 days post the initial appointment, with another round of application 7-10 days before the next review.
Monitoring and Seeking Professional Help
Should your child experience discomfort or pain during drop usage, discontinuation is crucial, followed by a consultation with a healthcare professional. Persistent ear pain or discharge should also prompt seeking medical advice before attempting any wax management techniques. In some instances, ear wax accumulation might indicate an underlying medical condition, underscoring the importance of professional consultation to ensure appropriate treatment.
Olive Oil Spray Option
An alternative to traditional drops is the use of an olive oil spray, obtainable from local pharmacies or supermarkets. This method guarantees the safe, easy, and accurate application of olive oil. Additionally, it eliminates the need for the child to remain still post-application. However, it's imperative not to insert cotton wool into the child's ears after using the spray, and refrain from using olive oil spray if a perforated eardrum is suspected.
Effectively managing ear wax buildup in children involves understanding the right techniques and seeking proper guidance. If you're concerned about your child's ear wax, always consult a healthcare professional for advice. Should your child experience pain or discomfort, discontinuing drops or spray usage and consulting a healthcare professional is recommended. By following these guidelines, you can ensure your child's ear health is managed with care and precision.
Dr Margarita Burmester is a highly regarded consultant paediatric specialist based in London. If you would like to book a consultation with Dr Burmester, you can do so today via her Top Doctors profile.